Sunday, October 15, 2006
Indonesia, officially the Republic of Indonesia (Indonesian: Republik Indonesia), is a nation of islands consisting of 18,110 islands in the South East Asian Archipelago. Indonesia (from Greek: indus = India nesos = islands) is the world's largest archipelagic nation. Its capital is Jakarta. Indonesia is bordered by the nations of Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and Malaysia. With a population of over 200 million, it is the world's fourth most populous country and the most populous Muslim-majority nation.
The Indonesian Archipelago, home of the Spice Islands, has been an important trade destination since ancient times, when early Chinese sailors began to find profit in the spice trade. Much of Indonesia's history has been influenced by the many foreign powers that have been drawn to the archipelago and by its wealth of natural resources. These have included Classical Hindus and Buddhists from India, Muslim traders in medieval times, and Europeans during the Age of Exploration who fought for monopolization of the spice trade. Indonesia was colonized by the Dutch for over three centuries but declared its independence in 1945, which was internationally recognized four years later. Since then, Indonesia has had a turbulent history, including political instability and corruption, periods of rapid economic growth and decline, environmental catastrophe, and a recent democratization process.
Indonesia is a unitary state, consisting of numerous distinct ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups spread across its many islands. The modern-day borders of Indonesia are based upon those of the Dutch East Indies colony, rather than on any preconceived notion of unity; however, a shared history of colonialism and rebellion against it, a national Indonesian language, and a majority religion (Islam) help to define Indonesia as a state. Indonesia's national motto, Bhinneka tunggal ika (derived from Old Javanese for unity in diversity), reflects the coming together of the country's myriad cultures, languages, and ethnic groups. However, sectarian tensions have threatened political stability in some regions, leading to violent confrontations and the secession of East Timor.
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